A few weeks ago the Wenatchee World newspaper featured an article about Wenatchee FC player Nikita Wall. It was available to subscribers only. Now The World and writer Daniel Rubens have shared the story with EPLWA.com.
By Daniel Rubens
Throughout his young life, Nikita Wall has had to face challenge after challenge. He’s conquered every one that has come his way.
Wall, now 20, was born in Russia with a birth defect that causes limbs to not generate properly. With no hand on his right arm and just two fingers on his left hand, Wall was sent to live in an orphanage where he remained until the age of five, when he was adopted by parents in Ephrata. He came to the United States, where, over the course of the next 15 years, he meshed into a big and busy family while also learning the ins-and-outs of soccer.
Today, Wall attends Corban University in Salem, Ore., playing soccer for the Warriors during the fall and Wenatchee FC during the summer. With one game left in the 2016 season, Wall has developed into a key cog in the Capitals’ squad over the course of the summer while learning how to handle a position he isn’t used to playing. It’s just another part of the journey.
Wall doesn’t regret having to take a single step on what’s been a twisting and turning trek from the start.
“God has given me a blessing in disguise, I like to think of it,” Wall said. “I don’t wish that I was born with five fingers. I’m very happy with who I am, and I don’t want to ever think about what it would be like to have 10 fingers and a full set of hands. I’m happy with what I have.”
When he was born in Tomsk, Russia in January of 1996, Wall had a disease known as oromandibular limb hypogenesis syndrome. The oromandibular portion of the syndrome concerns the jaw and tongue but an early operation allowed Wall to recover. The limb hypogenesis portion of the syndrome meant one or more of Wall’s appendages didn’t grow properly, which, in this case, was Wall’s hands.
Despite the obvious challenges he faced from the syndrome, Wall has found numerous ways to overcome the disability, to the point where he now is able to do just about anything.
“I don’t actually have any trouble providing for myself,” Wall said. “I can write, I can bench, I can work out, I can play the piano. Although it may not look like it, I am a little different on the outside, it hasn’t really stopped me from being able to provide for myself.”
After his birth, Wall was placed in a small orphanage in Tomsk — a city in Southern Russia with a population of appoximately 500,000. He remained there under the watch of a group of caring nurses before, when he was five years old, Wall was adopted by Darryl and Melinda Wall of Ephrata.
The Walls already had three boys when they brought Nikita home to Central Washington, but that was only the beginning. Over the next few years, the family would adopt four more children from China, all with disabilities. Each of Wall’s three adopted sisters have trouble hearing due to ear development issues, while Nikita’s brother adopted from China has cerebral palsy.
“My family, this has kind of been their life, is to adopt, it’s what they’ve been called to do,” Nikita said. “I’m glad because I get a good life here, and I’m blessed. My three Asian sisters and Asian brother all get a great life too … It’s tough when you’re disabled, but, like me, (my siblings) are very passionate and very determined. They’re not going to let something like that get in the way of living a good life and serving other people.”
As he’s grown up in a family of 10 surrounded by a bit of craziness, Nikita has found another home on the soccer field. He played in high school for Ephrata and his coach with the Tigers recommended Corban University to Nikita. After enrolling, he tried out, and he made the team under coach Aaron Lewis.
After playing in three games as a true freshman for the Warriors in 2014, Nikita returned to Central Washington over the summer where he joined up with Wenatchee FC.
Capitals coach Jamie Richards had heard about Wall from Lewis, who also coaches the Vancouver Victory in the Evergreen Premier League. Then an assistant with Wenatchee FC, Richards got to work closely with Wall and immediately liked what he saw.
“Nikita shows up early every day,” Richards said. “He’s the hardest worker, he’s the first one to pick everything up and on top of that he’s got a good soccer IQ. The way he sees the game is just very tactically minded.”
Nikita only played in one game for the Capitals during his first season due to injury. When he returned to the pitch he made a big impact. Nikita played 14 games for a Warriors team that rose to as high as No. 7 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) poll before earning an at-large NAIA tournament berth.
Nikita has brought some of that momentum back with him to Wenatchee this summer. While he hasn’t played in every game, Wall has earned consistent time on the field due in large part to a positional change.
For Corban, he usually plays as a defender, but this summer, Richards found a new spot for Wall. With a crowded back line, Richards has tinkered with playing Wall in a more advanced role as a left-sided winger, a position that has suited Wall well.
“He’s gifted with vision on the field,” Richards said. “He’s a very creative player. Due to the fact that I’ve got a pretty deep defensive line, trying to really figure out a role for him is useful, and the creativity in attack seems to be the role we need him for.
He’s always been a versatile player able to settle anywhere he’s needed on the field, but it took some time for Nikita — who came to the Capitals expecting to play left back — to warm up to the idea of playing primarily as a winger this season.
“I got a little frustrated at first,” Nikita said. “I want to improve at one position. I felt like if I’m putting my time in multiple positions, I’m not focused on one. But I would later be happy with my decision to learn how to play midfield, forward and defense because as a midfielder, you don’t know what the defense is thinking, and as a defender, you don’t know what the midfield is thinking.”
He’s used that small advantage to carve out a nice niche for himself over the course of the summer. While the summer is rapidly coming to a close — Wenatchee’s final game is Sunday at the Apple Bowl against the Olympic Force — Wall has enjoyed playing with the Capitals and will hope to take what he’s learned back with him to Corban ahead of his junior season.
For now, though, his focus remains on finishing Wenatchee’s campaign on a high note.
“We need to play with heart,” Nikita said. “I love playing with every one of these players, they all show potential … We need to be simple in the midfield and make sure that we’re making the wide decision and not being reckless with the ball.”